(Reuters) – German security agents recorded a conversation involving Hillary Clinton while she was U.S. Secretary of State, media reported on Friday, a potential embarrassment for Berlin which has lambasted Washington for its widespread surveillance.
Clinton’s words were intercepted while she was on a U.S. government plane, Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and German regional public broadcasters NDR and WDR said, without giving details of where she was or when the recording was made.
The respected broadsheet quoted German government sources saying the conversation had been picked up “by accident” and was not part of any plan to spy on Washington’s top diplomat. The fact the recording had not been destroyed immediately was “idiocy”, said one of the sources.
Both Germany’s government and a spokeswoman for the National Security Council at the White House declined to comment on the reports on Friday.
Relations between the United States and Germany were hit last year by revelations by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden that Washington spied on German officials and bugged the phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The dispute was revived in July when Germany’s Federal Prosecutor arrested Markus R., a 31-year old employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND), on suspicion of spying for the Americans.
Details of the German recording of Clinton’s conversation were included in documents that Markus R. had passed on to Washington, said the German media reports, without citing a source for that information.
The newspaper and the radio stations said a joint investigation had discovered the documents also showed Germany’s government had ordered the BND to spy on a NATO partner state, without naming the country.
The media reports said U.S. authorities had brought up the affair in recent discussions, including one between current Secretary of State John Kerry and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Merkel said in an interview last month that the United States and Germany had fundamentally different conceptions of the role of the intelligence service, and she stressed the Cold War was over.
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A suburban St. Louis police chief on Friday identified the officer whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager ignited days of heated protests, and released documents alleging the teen was killed after a robbery in which he was suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars.
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson released several police reports and documents during a news conference where he also identified the officer involved as Darren Wilson, who has been on administrative leave since he shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, were suspected of taking a box of cigars from a convenience store in Ferguson that morning, according to police reports. Jackson said Wilson went to the area after a 911 call reporting a “strong-arm” robbery just before noon. He said a dispatcher gave a description of the robbery suspect, and Wilson, who had been assisting on another call, was sent to investigate.
Wilson, a six-year veteran of the police department, encountered Brown just after 12:01 p.m., with a second officer arriving three minutes later, Jackson said.
Brown’s uncle, Bernard Ewing, questioned whether Wilson really believed Brown was a suspect. He noted Johnson’s account that the officer told the two young men to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk, and that Brown had his hands up when he was shot.
“If he’s a robbery suspect, they would have had the lights on,” Ewing said. “If you rob somebody, you would tell them, ‘Get on the ground’ or something, not, ‘Get off the sidewalk.’”
“It still doesn’t justify shooting him when he puts his hands up,” he added. “You still don’t shoot him in the face.”
A phone message seeking comment from the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, wasn’t immediately returned.
Brown’s death has sparked several days of clashes with furious protesters in the city. The mood was quelled on Thursday after the governor turned oversight of the protests over to the state Highway Patrol. State troopers walking side-by-side with thousands of peaceful protesters replaced the image of previous nights: police in riot gear and armored tanks.
But the police chief’s announcement Friday was met with immediate disbelief and anger by several dozen community members who also attended the news conference, which was hastily held at a gas station burned during a night of looting earlier in the week in Ferguson, a town of 21,000 that is nearly 70 percent black and patrolled by a nearly all-white police force.
“He stopped the wrong one, bottom line,” yelled Tatinisha Wheeler, a nurse’s aide who was at the news conference.
A couple dozen protesters began marching around the charred gas station and in the street chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street during a routine patrol. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car before the struggle spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times, according to police.
Dorian Johnson has told media a different story. He said he and Brown were walking in the street when an officer ordered them onto the sidewalk, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He said Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times.
Tensions in Ferguson boiled over after a candlelight vigil Sunday night, as looters smashed and burned businesses in the neighborhood, where police have repeatedly fired tear gas and smoke bombs.
By Thursday, there was a dramatic shift in the atmosphere after Gov. Jay Nixon assigned protest oversight to Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is black and grew up near Ferguson. He marched alongside protesters, along with other high-ranking brass from the Highway Patrol and the St. Louis County Police Department.
“We’re here to serve and protect,” Johnson said. “We’re not here to instill fear.”
The streets were filled with music, free food and even laughter. When darkness fell — the point at which previous protests have grown tense — no uniformed officers were in sight outside the burned-out QuikTrip convenience store that had become a flashpoint for standoffs between police and protesters.
“All they did was look at us and shoot tear gas,” Pedro Smith, who has participated in the nightly protests, said Thursday. “This is totally different. Now we’re being treated with respect.”
The more tolerant response came as President Barack Obama spoke publicly for the first time about the shooting — and the subsequent violence that shocked the nation and threatened to tear apart Ferguson.
Obama said there was “no excuse” for violence either against the police or by officers against peaceful protesters.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said federal investigators have interviewed witnesses to the shooting.
Dorian Johnson, a witness to the shooting, spoke to News 4 shortly after the shooting.
RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina officials say there has been a huge increase over the past two years in the number of Tar Heel families who have pulled their kids out of public schools and begun educating them at home.
The number of homeschools has jumped 27 percent since the 2011-12 school year, NewsObserver.com reports.
As of last year, 98,172 North Carolinian children were homeschooled; that’s 2,400 students more than the number who attended a private school.
While the sputtering economy is the reason families are choosing homeschooling over private schooling, the nationalized learning experiment (Common Core) is the main reason families are leaving the public schools in the first place.
“Common Core is a big factor that I hear people talk about,” Beth Herbert, founder of Lighthouse Christian Homeschool Association, told NewsObserver.com. “They’re not happy with the work their kids are coming home with. They’ve decided to take their children home.”
In-the-know parents understand that Common Core’s plodding approach to math instruction leaves students unprepared for college study in STEM courses – science, technology, engineering and math.
These same parents also realize that the nationalized learning standards’ emphasis of nonfiction, “informational” texts over classic literature is intended to mold students into drone-like workers, not out-of-the-box thinkers.
For some homeschool parents, it’s the Common Core-related standardized testing that they’re trying to protect their kids from.
Whatever the particular reason, it all adds up to a significant exodus from the public schools.
Homeschooling doesn’t mean kids have to miss all the social and sports-related aspects of traditional schools. Communities with a significant number of homeschoolers offer extracurricular activities for families.
Homeschooling was legalized by the state Supreme Court in 1985. In the days before Common Core, most homeschool families chose to leave the government-run schools because they were too secular, violent and crowded, the news site notes.
It’ll be interesting to see if the homeschool surge levels off once state education leaders revise and replace the worst parts of Common Core, as state lawmakers recently directed them to do.
But North Carolinians shouldn’t be surprised if it continues to grow, as homeschool parents share their success stories with others.
“It was scary at first,” homeschool parent Melissa Lopez told the news site, adding that her New York friends were skeptical when they heard her plan.
“Up North it’s not as common as it is down here so I always thought it was a crazy idea. But once I said, ‘I’m not asking for opinions – I’m doing it,’ they see it’s worked out for us,” Lopez said.
Bank Bail-ins are coming to the United States
In a speech yesterday, in Stockholn Sweden, Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve and former governor of the Bank of Israel and former chief economist at the World Bank, Stanley Fisher noted:
“As part of this approach, the United States is preparing a proposal to require systemically important banks to issue bail-inable long-term debt that will enable insolvent banks to recapitalize themselves in resolution without calling on government funding–this cushion is known as a “gone concern” buffer.”
Mr. Fisher gave no details as to whom in the United States was preparing the bail-in proposal and what “bailinable long term debt” is.
It Happened in Cyprus, But Can It Happen Here?
In spring of 2013 the failing European Bank of Cyprus performed a bail-in that required depositors to help save the bank by foregoing a large portion of the money they had deposited in the bank. In return for their forebearance, depositors were given equity shares in the failing bank.
Customers who deposit money in banks are lending that money to the bank. Depositors are in effect, unsecured creditors. If the bank fails, depositors get in line with other unsecured creditors to see how many cents on the dollar, if any, they can retrieve.
In the United States to offset this result, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) since 1933 insures bank deposits up to $250,000*. THe FDIC, however, is woefully underfunded to handle payouts in the event of a large bank failure. The new proposal is designed to allow failing banks to get back on their feet “without calling on government funding.”
Under the proposed bail-in scenario, the faiure of a “sytematically important bank” (a.k.a. “too big to fail”) will receive no government funding to stay afloat. In order to keep their casino doors open, a too big to fail bank will just call on their loyal depositors to help out by taking whatever percentage of the depositors’ money they need to stabilize the bank.
Barack Obama is in the middle of the longest vacation of his presidency, so the good folks over at Weasel Zippers dug up footage from 2008 when he said that, if he was elected president, he would forgo vacation time.
The video features then-Sen. Obama discussing his book “The Audacity Of Hope” with New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in 2008.
The future president was talking about how those running for president need to be prepared to “give their life to it.”
“The bargain that any president strikes with is, you give me this office and in turn my, fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure is gone,” Obama said. “I am giving myself to you.”
Obama went on to say that “the American people should have no patience for what’s going on in your head because you’ve got a job to do” and that people should only run for president if they’re willing to make that sacrifice.
When asked by the host if he could imagine himself making that kind of commitment, he said, “Sure.”
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Colorado’s controversial new gun law requiring a background check for any transfer of a firearm has left one woman unarmed.
Now she’s frustrated that her weapon, taken by police for safekeeping after a car accident, isn’t being returned.
Sara Warren said Fort Collins police took her Ruger SR9, which she uses for personal protection in her job as a maid when visiting clients’ homes, after an accident required her to be transported to the hospital.
The police want to give it back, but a new universal background check law passed last year amid much controversy requires a Federal Firearms License background check.
Fort Collins police don’t have an FFL holder on staff.
“We had an opinion from our city attorney and district attorney not to return firearms without a (Federal Firearms License) check, and we don’t have an FFL person in our office,” Fort Collins deputy chief Jim Szakmeister told the Loveland Reporter Herald.
Warren said she’s been in touch with the police repeatedly about getting her gun back, but was given no options, the paper reported. She said she’s turned down jobs because she doesn’t feel safe entering strangers’ homes without protection.
“I’m a lawful citizen,” she told the Reporter Herald. “I use my gun legally. I need my gun. This is ridiculous to me. There are people out there who can’t get their guns back. They haven’t done anything wrong.”
The background check law, and another that limits the size of ammunition magazines, spurred gun owners to recall two Democratic state senators who supported them last year. Another resigned rather than face a recall.
Most of Colorado’s elected sheriffs filed suit against the state to overturn the laws, which they say are either unenforceable or place too much of a burden on law-abiding gun owners.
“I’m told there are other people in this situation,” Sheriff Justin Smith told the Reporter Herald, referring to Warren’s inability to get her gun back. “It’s terrible when a law-abiding citizen gets caught up in something like this and it causes them to lose faith in their government.”
The police have hit on a one-time solution and are arranging for Warren and others in a similar situation to meet officers at a local outdoor store with an FFL license. Szakmeister told the newspaper he’s not sure who will pay for the background checks.
“We’re working on a long-term solution,” he said. “The greatest solution would be for the legislators to put in a police exemption. Otherwise we’re probably going to have to get an FFL and find someone in the office willing to work in that capacity.”
PLYMOUTH (CBS) – A Plymouth man is shocked that he survived a lightning strike Wednesday.
“I just saw a big flash,” Bruno DiFilippo told WBZ-TV a day later.
“I look down and I saw these blue sparks come out of my ankles and it went about five, ten feet.”
The lightning bolt went in his shoulder and out his ankles as he was holding a hose outside his home.
His girlfriend witnessed the terrifying scene.
“All of a sudden I see him kind of jolt, his eyes turn bright red, he lit up like a Christmas tree,” Lisa Rengucci said. “He shook just a tad, and he’s talking the whole time, and he says, ‘I think I was just zapped!’”
EMTs took Bruno to the hospital after the lightning strike. Even though the electricity shot out of his ankles, it left a mark only for a short time.
“I am a really lucky man,” he said.
Asked what kind of vitamins he takes, he told WBZ: “Espresso.
Border Patrol agent and vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, Shawn Moran, debunked the argument that illegal immigrants are only coming to the United States to work on Friday’s “America’s Newsroom” on the Fox News Channel.
“These are not people just coming here to work as the so-called line is fed to us. These people are coming here to do horrible things. And I think the murder of Agent [Javier] Vega shows what these people are capable of,” he said. And, “We’re up against close to 50 years of lack of border enforcement by the U.S. government. We have two political parties that are unwilling to take real enforcement action, and we have had two administrations in a row that gutted enforcement actions by the U.S. Border Patrol, by ICE agents, that do not allow us to actually go to do our job. We are handcuffed at every single turn.”
Moran also reported that the Border Patrol Council is pushing to classify Vega’s death as “a line of duty death” because “it would open up quite a bit of benefits to his family.”